Appealing for former work colleagues of mesothelioma claim victims to come forward and give their account of how asbestos may have affected their daily life while employed at a company is often vital supporting evidence. An experienced asbestosis lawyer will also know that that an appeal for witnesses can also be made through local and regional newspapers. In a number of cases, local news publishers will retain a record of witness statements from previous claimants who were employed at the same company in the area. Nevertheless, a court will carefully evaluate the reliability of witness evidence recalled up to 30 or 40 years later.
There is inevitably a considerable amount of background work which a specialist lawyer needs to carry out to succeed in an asbestosis claim. There can still be the more longer-running cases where a result is reached only after one or more appeals, and a previous judgement is overturned. Naturally, family members are determined to find answers, and will want to know why a former employer failed to protect their workers from the risk of exposure to asbestos-containing materials.
Asbestos exposure between the late 1970s and the 1990s
An increasing number of claims made by victims or their families relate to asbestos exposure between the late 1970s and the 1990s. By this time, asbestos awareness to the health risks and the long term fatal outcomes were advanced enough for the government to introduce The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 – key legislation, which required all employers to “conduct their work in such a way that employees will not be exposed to health and safety risks” and to also “provide information” on potential risks to health and safety at their workplace.
During the 1980s, further laws introduced included The Asbestos Licensing Regulations 1983, requiring registration of all contractors working with asbestos materials to control standards of workmanship. Two years later, The Asbestos Prohibition Regulations 1985, banned the import and use of blue and brown asbestos, and The Asbestos Products Safety Regulations 1985 prohibited the supply and use of asbestos-containing products. In 1987, The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations placed a duty on all employers to prevent exposure of employees to asbestos or reduce to the “lowest reasonably practicable” level.
Nevertheless, there was still a widespread failure by employers to provide the “statutory duty of care” to minimise risk. The majority of witness statements from victims and their work colleagues show time and time again that no personal protection equipment was ever supplied, nor the health dangers of asbestos made known to employees.
A solicitor’s aim is to try and to reach the earliest possible settlement
As a result of showing clear evidence of a breach in observing the regulations, a court is more likely to find in the claimant’s favour. In these more straightforward cases, a solicitor’s aim is to try and to reach the earliest possible settlement, which can often be made out of court. To this end, a solicitor should also have access to recognised and approved medical and engineering experts in asbestos materials. Their detailed report should be able to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis, and the link between a victim’s condition and exposure to asbestos fibre dust.
In some more difficult cases, an employer may dispute their liability over whether the risk to the claimant eventually contracting mesothelioma could be “reasonably foreseen by the employer at the time of the original exposure”, and at the level which would likely cause the employee to be exposed to a future health risk. Their defence is based upon showing that “expected reasonable steps” were actually carried out to “prevent foreseeable injury.”
However, witness evidence may not be enough to clearly determine the level of original exposure and the contributory impact of the resulting mesothelioma on the victim and their family. This can influence the level of compensation awarded. In addition to the essential medical and employment history needed to support a claim, an asbestosis lawyer will also need to provide a Care Report, prepared by an experienced nursing practitioner. Following an interview and detailed assessment, their professional opinion will accurately identify a victim’s daily care needs, including a victim’s dependence on others, all future treatment, care, aid and equipment. The estimated costs will then be included in the overall compensation claim.